By Victoria Ojeme
As the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS gathers this weekend for the Parliamentary Seminar on Transhumance and Inter-Community Conflicts in the ECOWAS Region, the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies of Nigeria, NIPSS wants ECOWAS to expedite action on proposed regulations to arrest the farmers-herdsmen crisis in Nigeria.
This is in the bid to integrate the traditional stock routes used by different pastoralist clans, customary transhumance corridors and grazing areas.
In recent times, there has been an escalation of the conflict between herders and farmers that has left hundreds of Nigerian citizens dead, including women and children, and the destruction of property. These bouts of violence have also displaced thousands of people and led to the proliferation of emergency camps for Internally Displaced Persons in certain areas.
Ambassador Usman Sarki, Directing Staff of NIPSS stated this at a presentation on the Nigerian Legislation on Transhumance and management of disputes between herdsmen and farmers at the ongoing ECOWAS Parliamentary Seminar in Monrovia.
Amb. Usman said that there is a need for ECOWAS to develop a Twenty-year Plan for Transhumance Risk Mitigation and Reduction with a view to creating the enabling environment for peaceful coexistence between herders and farmers.
He said that the plan should take into consideration long-term measures such as demographic stabilization, climate change impact assessment, hydrological survey, establishment of regional grazing reserves, and development of grazing corridors between and among ECOWAS Member States.
Discussing the background of transhumance in West Africa, Usman said that the region’s traditional migratory linkages and exchanges of people, goods and services predicated on the historic and age-old long-distance trade in commodities like cattle, fish and other essential have of late been disturbed by factors like conflicts.
“Receding surface waters in many areas of West Africa occasioned by drought and climate change, as well as reduced grazing areas have also impacted heavily on the lifestyle of pastoral farmers and adversely affected the scope of their economic activities.
“A very important characteristic of both sedentary and pastoral farmers in the ECOWAS region and indeed in most of Africa, is that they are both relegated to the subsistence and informal levels” Usman stated.
He said pastoral farmers have been left to their own devices in almost all African countries, with little or no support from governments or attention towards their modernization.
He added that Disputes between farmers and herdsmen is attributed to land ownership, and grazing of livestock by herdsmen.
He stated further that destruction of crops by herdsmen among others have existed for a long time, and hence, there is the need for harmonization which can be realized through strict adherence to the ECOWAS Protocol Decision of 1998 and Regulations on Transhumance of 2003.
“ECOWAS should promote gender specific policies and empowerment programmes at grassroots levels, develop youth empowerment policies, identify opportunities for farmers and herders to maximize the use of available spaces, establish mechanisms for monitoring of transhumance activities across West Africa, develop early warning and horizon scanning strategies to anticipate and prevent conflicts related to transhumance activities, and seek international support for such policies” Usman opined.